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Ch. 6: Fatima

And you may go in every room of the house and see everything
that is there, but into the Blue Room you must not go.-The Story of
Blue Beard.

SCENE.-The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains. Time, 11 A. M.
on a Sunday morning. Captain GADSBY, in his shirt-sleeves, is
bending over a complete set of Hussar's equipment, from saddle to
picketing-rope, which is neatly spread over the floor of his study.
He is smoking an unclean briar, and his forehead is puckered with
thought.

CAPT. G. (To himself, fingering a headstall.) Jack's an ass.
There's enough brass on this to load a mule-and, if the Americans
know anything about anything, it can be cut down to a bit only.
'Don't want the watering-bridle, either. Humbug!-Half a dozen sets
of chains and pulleys for one horse! Rot! (Scratching his head.)
Now, let's consider it all over from the he-ginning. By Jove, I've
forgotten the scale of weights! Ne'er mind. 'Keep the bit only, and
eliminate every boss from the crupper to breastplate. No
breastplate at all. Simple leather strap across the breast-like the
Russians. Hi! Jack never thought of that!

MRS. G. (Entering hastily, her hand bound in a cloth.) Oh, Pip,
I've scalded my hand over that horrid, horrid Tiparee jam!

CAPT. G. (Absently.) Eb! Wha-at?

MRS. G. (With round-eyed reproach.) I've scalded it aw-fully!
Aren't you sorry? And I did so want that jam to jam properly.

CAPT. G. Poor little woman! Let me kiss the place and make it
well. (Unrolling bandage.) You small sinner! Where's that scald?
I can't see it.

MRS. G. On the top of the little finger. There!-It's a most
'normous big burn!

CAPT. G. (Kissing little finger.) Baby! Let Hyder look after the
jam. You know I don't care for sweets.

Mas. G. In-deed?-Pip!

CAPT. G. Not of that kind, anyhow. And now run along, Minnie,
and leave me to my own base devices. I'm busy.

MRS. G. (Calmly settling herself in long chair.) So I see. What a
mess you're making! Why have you brought all that smelly leather
stuff into the house?

CAPT. G. To play with. Do you mind, dear?

MRS. G. Let me play too. I'd like it.

CAPT. G. I'm afraid you wouldn't. Pussy- Don't you think that jam
will burn, or whatever it is that jam does when it's not looked after
by a clever little housekeeper?

MRS. G. I thought you said Hyder could attend to it. I left him in
the veranda, stirring-when I hurt myself so.

CAPT. G. (His eye returning to the equipment.) Po-oor little
woman!-Three pounds four and seven is three eleven, and that can
be cut down to two eight, with just a lee-tie care, with-out
weakening anything. Farriery is all rot in incompetent hands.
What's the use of a shoe-case when a man's scouting? He can't
stick it on with a lick-like a stamp-the shoe! Skittles

MRS. G. What's skittles? Pah! What is this leather cleaned with?

CAPT. G. Cream and champagne and- Look here, dear, do you
really want to talk to me about anything important?

MRS. G. No. I've done my accounts, and I thought I'd like to see
what you're doing.

CAPT. G. Well, love, now you've seen and- Would you mind?-
That is to say-Minnie, I really am busy.

MRS. G. You want me to go?

CAPT. G, Yes, dear, for a little while. This tobacco will hang in
your dress, and saddlery doesn't interest you.

MRS. G. Everything you do interests me, Pip.

CAPT. G. Yes, I know, I know, dear. I'll tell you all about it some
day when I've put a head on this thing. In the meantime-

MRS. G. I'm to be turned out of the room like a troublesome child?

CAPT. G. No-o. I don't mean that exactly. But, you see, I shall be
tramping up and down, shifting these things to and fro, and I shall
be in your way. Don't you think so?

MRS. G. Can't I lift them about? Let me try. (Reaches forward to
trooper's saddle.)

CAPT. G. Good gracious, child, don't touch it. You'll hurt yourself.
(Picking up saddle.) Little girls aren't expected to handle
numdahs. Now, where would you like it put? (Holds saddle above
his head.)

MRS. G. (A break in her voice.) Nowhere. Pip, how good you
are-and how strong! Oh, what's that ugly red streak inside your
arm?

CAPT. G. (Lowering saddle quickly.) Nothing. It's a mark of sorts.
(Aside.) And Jack's coming to tiffin with his notions all cut and
dried!

MRS. G. I know it's a mark, but I've never seen it before. It runs
all up the arm. What is it?

CAPT. G. A cut-if you want to know.

MRS. G. Want to know! Of course I do! I can't have my husband
cut to pieces in this way. How did it come? Was it an accident?
Tell me, Pip.

CAPT. G. (Grimly.) No. 'Twasn't an accident. I got it-from a
man-in Afghanistan.

MRS. G. In action? Oh, Pip, and you never told me!

CAPT. G. I'd forgotten all about it.

MRS. G. Hold up your arm! What a horrid, ugly scar! Are you
sure it doesn't hurt now! How did the man give it you?

CAPT. G. (Desperately looking at his watch.) With a knife. I came
down-old Van Loo did, that's to say-and fell on my leg, so I
couldn't run. And then this man came up and began chopping at
me as I sprawled.

MRS. G. Oh, don't, don't! That's enough!- Well, what happened?

CAPT. G. I couldn't get to my holster, and Mafflin came round the
corner and stopped the performance.

MRS. G. How? He's such a lazy man, I don't believe he did.

CAPT. G. Don't you? I don't think the man had much doubt about
it. Jack cut his head off.

Mas. G. Cut-his-head-off! "With one blow," as they say in the
books?

CAPT. G. I'm not sure. I was too interested in myself to know
much about it. Anyhow, the head was off, and Jack was punching
old Van Loo in the ribs to make him get up. Now you know all
about it, dear, and now-

MRS. G. You want me to go, of course. You never told me about
this, though I've been married to you for ever so long; and you
never would have told me if I hadn't found out; and you never do
tell me anything about yourself, or what you do, or what you take
an interest in.

CAPT. G. Darling, I'm always with you, aren't I?

MRS. G. Always in my pocket, you were going to say. I know you
are; but you are always thinking away from me.

CAPT. G. (Trying to hide a smile.) Am I? I wasn't aware of it.
I'm awf'ly sorry.

MRS. G. (Piteously.) Oh, don't make fun of me! Pip, you know
what I mean. When you are reading one of those things about
Cavalry, by that idiotic Prince-why doesn't he be a Prince instead
of a stable-boy?

CAPT. G. Prince Kraft a stable-boy-Oh, my Aunt! Never mind,
dear. You were going to say?

MRS. G. It doesn't matter; you don't care for what I say. Only-only
you get up and walk about the room, staring in front of you, and
then Mafflin comes in to dinner, and after I'm in the drawmg-room
I can hear you and him talking, and talking, and talking, about
things I can't understand, and-oh, I get so tired and feel so lonely!-I
don't want to complain and be a trouble, Pip; but I do indeed I do!

CAPT. G. My poor darling! I never thought of that. Why don't you
ask some nice people in to dinner?

MRS. G. Nice people! Where am I to find them? Horrid frumps!
And if I did, I shouldn't be amused. You know I only want you.

CAPT, G. And you have me surely, Sweetheart?

MRS. G. I have not! Pip why don't you take me into your life?

CAPT. G. More than I do? That would be difficult, dear.

MRS. G. Yes, I suppose it would-to you. I'm no help to you-no
companion to you; and you like to have it so.

CAPT. G. Aren't you a little unreasonable, Pussy?

MRS. G. (Stamping her foot.) I'm the most reasonable woman in
the world-when I'm treated properly.

CAPT. G. And since when have I been treating you improperly?

MRS. G. Always-and since the beginning. You know you have.

CAPT. G. I don't; but I'm willing to be convinced.

MRS. G. (Pointing to saddlery.) There!

CAPT. G. How do you mean?

MRS. G. What does all that mean? Why am I not to be told? Is it
so precious?

CAPT. G. I forget its exact Government value just at present. It
means that it is a great deal too heavy.

MRS. G. Then why do you touch it?

CAPT. G. To make it lighter. See here, little love, I've one notion
and Jack has another, but we are both agreed that all this
equipment is about thirty pounds too heavy. The thing is how to
cut it down without weakening any part of it, and, at the same
time, allowing the trooper to carry everything he wants for his own
comfort-socks and shirts and things of that kind.

MRS. G. Why doesn't he pack them in a little trunk?

CAPT. G. (Kissing her.) Oh, you darling! Pack them in a little
trunk, indeed! Hussars don't carry trunks, and it's a most important
thing to make the horse do all the carrying.

MRS. G. But why need you bother about it? You're not a trooper.

CAPT. G. No; but I command a few score of him; and equipment
is nearly everything in these days.

MRS. G. More than me?

CAPT. G. Stupid! Of course not; but it's a matter that I'm
tremendously interested in, because if I or Jack, or I and Jack,
work out some sort of lighter saddlery and all that. it's possible
that we may get it adopted.

MRS. G. How?

CAPT. G. Sanctioned at Home, where they will make a sealed
pattern-a pattern that all the saddlers must copy-and so it will be
used by all the regiments.

MRS. G. And that interests you?

CAPT. G. It's part of my profession, y'know, and my profession is
a good deal to me. Everything in a soldier's equipment is
important, and if we can improve that equipment, so much the
better for the soldiers and for us.

Mas. G. Who's "us"?

CAPT. G. Jack and I; only Jack's notions are too radical. What's
that big sigh for, Minnie?

MRS. G. Oh, nothing-and you've kept all this a secret from me!
Why?

CAPT. G. Not a secret, exactly, dear. I didn't say anything about it
to you because I didn't think it would amuse you.

MRS. G. And am I only made to be amused?

CAPT. G. No, of course. I merely mean that it couldn't interest
you.

MRS. G. It's your work and-and if you'd let me, I'd count all these
things up. If they are too heavy, you know by how much they are
too heavy, and you must have a list of things made out to your
scale of lightness, and-

CAPT. G. I have got both scales somewhere in my head; hut it's
hard to tell how light you can make a head-stall, for instance, until
you've actually had a model made.

MRS. G. But if you read out the list, I could copy it down, and pin
it up there just above your table. Wouldn't that do?

CAPT. G. It would be awf'ly nice, dear, but it would be giving you
trouble for nothing. I can't work that way. I go by rule of thumb. I
know the present scale of weights, and the other one-the one that
I'm trying to work to-will shift and vary so much that I couldn't be
certain, even if I wrote it down.

MRS. G. I'm so sorry. I thought I might help. Is there anything else
that I could be of use in?

CAPT. G. (Looking round the room.) I can't think of anything.
You're always helping me you know.

MRS. G. Am I? How?

CAPT. G. You are of course, and as long as you're near me-I can't
explain exactly, but it's in the air.

MRS. G. And that's why you wanted to send me away?

CAPT. G. That's only when I'm trying to do work-grubby work like
this.

MRS. G. Mafflin's better, then, isn't he?

CAPT. G. (Rashly.) Of course he is. Jack and I have been
thinking along the same groove for two or three years about this
equipment. It's our hobby, and it may really be useful some day.

MRS. G. (After a pause.) And that's all that you have away from
me?

CAPT. G. It isn't very far away from you now. Take care the oil on
that bit doesn't come off on your dress.

MRS. G. I wish-I wish so much that I could really help you. I
believe I could-if I left the room. But that's not what I mean.

CAPT. G. (Aside.) Give me patience! I wish she would go.
(Aloud.) I as-sure you you can't do anything for me, Minnie, and I
must really settle down to this. Where's my pouch?

MRS. G. (Crossing to writing-table.) Here you are, Bear. What a
mess you keep your table in!

CAPT. G. Don't touch it. There's a method in my madness,
though you mightn't think of it.

MRS. G. (At table.) I want to look- Do you keep accounts, Pip?

CAPT. G. (Bending over saddlery.) Of a sort. Are you rummaging
among the Troop papers? Be careful.

MRs. G. Why? I sha'n't disturb anything. Good gracious! I had
no idea that you had anything to do with so many sick horses.

CAPT. G. 'Wish I hadn't, but they insist on falling sick. Minnie, if
1 were you I really should not investigate those papers. You may
come across something that you won't like.

MRS. G. Why will you always treat me like a child? I know I'm
not displacing the horrid things.

CAPT. G. (Resignedly.) Very well, then. Don't blame me if
anything happens. Play with the table and let me go on with the
saddlery. (Slipping hand into trousers-pocket.) Oh, the deuce!

MRS. G. (Her back to G.) What's that for?

CAPT. G. Nothing. (Aside.) There's not much in it, but I wish I'd
torn it up.

MRS. G. (Turning over contents of table.) I know you'll hate me
for this; but I do want to see what your work is like. (A pause.)
Pip, what are "farcybuds"?

CAPT. G. Hab! Would you really like to know? They aren't
pretty things.

MRS. G. This Journal of Veterinary Science says they are of
"absorbing interest." Tell me.

CAPT. G. (Aside.) It may turn her attention.

Gives a long and designedly loathsome account of glanders and
farcy.

MRS. G. Oh, that's enough. Don't go on!

CAPT. G. But you wanted to know-Then these things suppurate
and matterate and spread-

MRS. G. Pin, you're making me sick! You're a horrid, disgusting
schoolboy.

CAPT. G. (On his knees among the bridles.) You asked to be
told. It's not my fault if you worry me into talking about horrors.

Mas. G. Why didn't you say-No?

CAPT. G. Good Heavens, child! Have you come in here simply to
bully me?

Mas. G. I bully you? How could I! You're so strong. (Hysterically.)
Strong enough to pick me up and put me outside the door and
leave me there to cry. Aren't you?

CAPT. G. It seems to me that you're an irrational little baby. Are
you quite well?

MRS. G. Do I look ill? (Returning to table). Who is your lady
friend with the big grey envelope and the fat monogram outside?

CAPT. G. (Aside.) Then it wasn't locked up, confound it.
(Aloud.) "God made her, therefore let her pass for a woman." You
remember what farcybuds are like?

Mas. G. (Showing envelope.) This has nothing to do with them.
I'm going to open it. May I?

CAPT. G. Certainly, if you want to. I'd sooner you didn't though. I
don't ask to look at your letters to the Deer-court girl.

Mas. G. You'd better not, Sir! (Takes letter from envelope.) Now,
may I look? If you say no, I shall cry.

CAPT. G. You've never cried in my knowledge of you, and I don't
believe you could.

Mas. G. I feel very like it to-day, Pip. Don't be hard on me. (Reads
letter.) It begins in the middle, with-out any "Dear Captain
Gadsby," or anything. How funny!

CAPT. G. (Aside.) No, it's not Dear Captain Gadsby, or anything,
now. How funny!

Mas. G. What a strange letter! (Reads.) "And so the moth has
come too near the candle at last, and has been singed into-shall I
say Respectability? I congratulate him, and hope he will be as
happy as he deserves to be." What does that mean? Is she
congratulating you about our marriage?

CAPT. G. Yes, I suppose so.

Mas. G. (Still r'ading letter.) She seems to be a particular friend of
yours.

CAPT. G. Yes. She was an excellent matron of sorts-a Mrs.
Herriott-wife of a Colonel Herriott. I used to know some of her
people at Home long ago-before I came out.

Mas. G. Some Colonel's wives are young-as young as me. I knew
one who was younger.

CAPT. G. Then it couldn't have been Mrs. Herriott. She was old
enough to have been ycur mother, dear.

Mas. G. I remember now. Mrs. Scargill was talking about her at
the Dutfins' tennis, before you came for me, on Tuesday. Captain
Mafflin said she was a "dear old woman." Do you know, I think
Mafilin is a very clumsy man with his feet.

CAPT. G. (Aside.) Good old Jack! (Aloud.) Why, dear?

Mas. G. He had put his cup down on the ground then, and he
literally stepped into it. Some of the tea spirted over my dress-the
grey one. I meant to tell you about it before.

CAPT. G. (Aside.) There are the makings of a strategist about
Jack though his methods are coarse. (Aloud.) You'd better get a
new dress, then. (Aside.) Let us pray that that will turn her.

Mas. G. Oh, it isn't stained in the least. I only thought that I'd tell
you. (Returning to letter.) What an extraordinary person! (Reads.)
"But need I remind you that you have taken upon yourself a charge
of wardship"-what in the world is a charge of wardship?-"which as
you yourself know, may end in Consequences"-

CAPT. G. (Aside.) It's safest to let em see everything as they come
across it; but 'seems to me that there are exceptions to the rule.
(Aloud.) I told you that there was nothing to be gained from
rearranging my table.

Mas. G. (Absently.) What does the woman mean? She goes on
talking about Consequences-' 'almost inevitable Consequences"
with a capital C-for half a page. (Flushing scarlet.) Oh, good
gracious! How abominable!

CAPT. G. (Promptly.) Do you think so? Doesn't it show a sort of
motherly interest in us? (Aside.) Thank Heaven. Harry always
wrapped her meaning up safely! (Aloud.) Is it absolutely necessary
to go on with the letter, darling?

Mas. G. It's impertinent-it's simply horrid. What right has this
woman to write in this way to you? She oughtn't to.

CAPT. G. When you write to the Deercourt girl, I notice that you
generally fill three or four sheets. Can't you let an old woman
babble on paper once in a way? She means well.

MRS. G. I don't care. She shouldn't write, and if she did, you ought
to have shown me her letter.

CAPT. G. Can't you understand why I kept it to myself, or must I
explain at length-as I explained the farcybuds?

Mas. G. (Furiously.) Pip I hate you! This is as bad as those
idiotic saddle-bags on the floor. Never mind whether it would
please me or not, you ought to have given it to me to read.

CAPT. G. It comes to the same thing. You took it yourself.

MRS. G. Yes, but if I hadn't taken it, you wouldn't have said a
word. I think this Harriet Herriott-it's like a name in a book-is an
interfering old Thing.

CAPT. G. (Aside.) So long as you thoroughly understand that she
is old, I don't much care what you think. (Aloud.) Very good, dear.
Would you like to write and tell her so? She's seven thousand
miles away.

MRS. G. I don't want to have any-thing to do with her, but you
ought to have told me. (Turning to last page of letter.) And she
patronizes me, too. I've never seen her! (Reads.) "I do not know
how the world stands with you; in all human probability I shall
never know; but whatever I may have said before, I pray for her
sake more than for yours that all may be well. I have learned what
misery means, and I dare not wish that any one dear to you should
share my knowledge."

CAPT. G. Good God! Can't you leave that letter alone, or, at
least, can't you refrain from reading it aloud? I've been through it
once. Put it back on 'he desk. Do you hear me?

Mas. G. (Irresolutely.) I sh-sha'n't! (Looks at G.'s eyes.) Oh, Pip,
please! I didn't mean to make you angry- 'Deed, I didn't. Pip, I'm
so sorry. I know I've wasted your time-CAPT. G. (Grimly.) You
have. Now, will you be good enough to go-if there is nothing more
in my room that you are anxious to pry into?

Mas. G. (Putting out her hands.) Oh, Pip, don't look at me like
that! I've never seen you look like that before and it hu-urts me!
I'm sorry. I oughtn't to have been here at all, and -and- and-
(sobbing.) Oh, be good to me! Be good to me! There's only
you-anywhere! Breaks down in long chair, hiding face in cushions.

CAPT. G. (Aside.) She doesn't know how she flicked me on the
raw. (Aloud, bending over chair.) I didn't mean to be harsh, dear-I
didn't really. You can stay here as long as you please, and do what
you please. Don't cry like that. You'll make yourself sick. (Aside.)
What on earth has come over her? (Aloud.) Darling, what's the
matter with you?

Mrs. G. (Her face still hidden.) Let me go-let me go to my own
room. Only-only say you aren't angry with me.

CAPT. G. Angry with you, love! Of course not. I was angry with
myself. I'd lost my temper over the saddlery-Don't hide your face,
Pussy. I want to kiss it.

Bends lower, Mas. G. slides right arm round his neck. Several
interludes and much sobbing.

Mas. G. (In a whisper.) I didn't mean about the jam when I came
in to tell you-

CAPT'. G. Bother the jam and the equipment! (Interlude.)

Mas. G. (Still more faintly.) My finger wasn't scalded at all. I-[
wanted to speak to you about-about -something else, and-I didn't
know how.

CAPT. G. Speak away, then. (Looking into her eyes.) Eb!
Wha-at? Minnie! Here, don't go away! You don't mean?

Mas. G. (Hysterically, backing to portiere and hiding her face in
its fold's.) The-the Almost Inevitable Consequences! (Flits through
portiere as G. attempts to catch her, and bolts her self in her own
room.)

CAPT. G. (His arms full of portiere.) Oh! (Sitting down heavily
in chair.) I'm a brutea pig-a bully, and a blackguard. My poor,
poor little darling! "Made to be amused only?"-

 

Rudyard Kipling

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